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KCC lays groundwork for upcoming budget

Posted: December 9, 2011 4:21 p.m.
Updated: December 12, 2011 5:00 a.m.

Kershaw County Council and County Administrator Vic Carpenter looked to stay ahead of the curve at Thursday’s work session by beginning preliminary discussions over the county’s upcoming budget.  

Despite the budget not being formally submitted until the beginning of the fiscal year July 1, Carpenter said the process needed to begin early for the county. 

 “I’ve already sat down with the finance staff and started what I have to do with them and the department heads will be receiving information next week on what they have to get back to us,” Carpenter said.

He added that he hoped to provide council members with documents outlining department budget proposals by the end of March or in April and to start debating the overall budget in May.  

“It may seem like we just finished the last budget, but it takes six months to really build a budget,” he said.  

Councilman Stephen Smoak asked Carpenter several questions about his budget outlook and typical operating procedure, noting that it would be the first time council had worked with the new administrator on the issue.

Carpenter explained that he typically works with council and county staff to provide in-depth information and discussion on the budget.   

“I like to take an area, for example public safety, and we will delve deeply into public safety and those various issues and that might involve four or five departments because they’re connected,” Carpenter explained. “It’s important that those discussions occur in that context of 911, Animal Control, the Sheriff’s Office, and the Detention Center, because one affects the other. We will get into some detail, pealing down the layers of the budget.”

Anna Berger and Dennis Lambries, researchers at the University of South Carolina Institutive for Public Service and Policy Research (IPSPR), also provided a presentation on budget issues during the meeting. Berger led earlier discussions about the responsibilities of county governments during work sessions on Oct. 20 and Nov. 17.  

Berger said Carpenter was getting a “good jump” on the early stages of the budgeting process.

“I think he’s really looking out for council as a whole to make sure everyone is coming from the same place because you’ve got some newer members and I think he wants to make sure they all understand the basics,” Berger said. “The information that we’ve shared has been pretty foundational and basic, but I hope that everyone is now on the same playing field with some of this knowledge.”

Lambries provided council with a budget tutorial including tips towards the creation of an effective budget.

“A budget is an incredibly important document as you go through and think about what you do and your role as a member of council. It’s perhaps the single most important document,” Lambries said.

He outlined several requirements of county budgets including dealing with millage rates and staying up to date with state laws.

He also noted that the budget is the most concise statement of the council’s policy priorities.

 “You control and know what’s going on in two broad ways,” Lambries said. “First, by providing guidance into what’s going to be put into the budget in the first place and second, by the on-going reports and workshops that you have that gives you a status of where you are.”

He added that several characteristics indicate a quality budget, including clearly defined appropriations for services and programs and a conservative revenue outlook.

“The budget is guidance. If revenue projections are down, you have complete authority, and you may delegate this to the administrator, to hold back,” he said.

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